What is Baiting Attack in Social Engineering? Protect Your Organisation

What is Baiting Attack in Social Engineering? Protect Your Organisation

What is Baiting Attack in Social Engineering?

Social engineering represents a significant cybersecurity threat that preys upon an organization’s weakest link – its employees. These attackers, known as social engineers, leverage cunning tactics to manipulate the psychology of unsuspecting individuals within the organization, including senior staff, to gain unauthorized access to network and data systems.

Through various techniques such as phishing attacks, baiting, and USB-based malware distribution, these malicious actors trick employees into divulging sensitive information or unwittingly installing malware. This type of cyber threat exploits human vulnerability, highlighting the critical need for robust cybersecurity awareness and training programs to mitigate the risks posed by social engineering attacks.

What is Social Engineering?

Social Engineering is a tactic employed by cybercriminals who manipulate human psychology, eschewing technical hacking tools to infiltrate an organization’s data and systems. Rather than directly exploiting system vulnerabilities, these hackers use psychological manipulation to coerce employees into divulging confidential information or performing specific actions.

Social Engineering

For instance, instead of employing sophisticated hacking methods to access data, a hacker might masquerade as a helpful technician, persuading a target to share login credentials under false pretenses.

This approach, known as quid pro quo, leverages the human tendency to trust and seek benefits, making individuals susceptible to offers that seem too good to be true. Cybercriminals often opt for social engineering tactics like quid pro quo because they find it easier to exploit human trust than to breach sophisticated security measures.

According to the IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report, a staggering 95% of data breaches and cyber-attacks result from human error, highlighting the efficacy of social engineering strategies.

In their Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020, IBM notes that the average cost of cybersecurity breaches caused by human error amounts to $3.33 million. Hackers create a sense of urgency or exploit human curiosity to trick employees into divulging sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. They may also use infected flash drives or pose as legitimate entities prompting individuals to disable antivirus software, thereby facilitating unauthorized access to systems and credentials.

Types of Social Engineering Attacks on your Organisation 


Phishing is a form of social engineering where an attacker sends deceptive messages to employees via email, instant messaging, or text messages. These messages contain fraudulent links or attachments that, when clicked, can lead to malware installation, ransomware attacks, or the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive organizational information.

Phishing works effectively because attackers impersonate trusted entities such as authority figures, technicians, banks, or colleagues. They employ clever techniques such as using deceptive email addresses, mimicking organizational identities with images and familiar text styles.

Additionally, these messages often create a sense of urgency, threatening negative consequences if the recipient does not act quickly, pushing employees to comply without careful scrutiny.


Baiting involves a deceptive tactic where a malicious actor sets a trap disguised as something harmless to deceive an employee into compromising their system by either introducing malware or revealing sensitive information.

A common baiting method is through physical media, like infecting a USB device with malware and leaving it where an unsuspecting employee might plug it into their computer, thereby compromising the entire system and potentially the network it’s connected to. Online, cybercriminals use enticing advertisements as bait to lure individuals to websites containing malware, often promising “free iPads” or other too-good-to-be-true offers.

The success of baiting hinges on the lack of employee training regarding security awareness. Organisations sometimes overlook or employees may not take security training seriously, making them vulnerable to cybercriminals who exploit their curiosity and temptation through baiting techniques.

Watering Hole

The watering hole analogy is quite fitting for this social engineering tactic. Attackers exploit the trust employees have in frequently visited websites, akin to how predators wait for vulnerable prey at a watering hole. By targeting these trusted sites and infecting them with malware, attackers wait for unsuspecting employees to access the compromised website, leading to the infection of their systems and granting attackers access.

Hacker are using Watering Hole

This tactic works because employees rely on these legitimate websites for their work, making it challenging to discern the traps set by attackers. Just as animals at a watering hole are vulnerable due to their need for water, employees are vulnerable due to their reliance on these sites. Additionally, attackers have a higher chance of success by targeting a group of employees rather than individuals, similar to how predators have better odds at a watering hole where multiple prey gather.


Whaling is a social engineering tactic used by cybercriminals to target senior or high-ranking individuals within an organization, posing as other influential figures to gain access to computer systems, steal money, or extract sensitive data.

Also known as CEO Fraud, this tactic closely resembles phishing but focuses on specific key individuals or “whales” in the company such as the CEO or Finance Manager. Unlike phishing, which targets a broader audience, whaling involves tailoring attacks to high-profile targets while masquerading as another authoritative figure within the organization.

The success of whaling lies in its ability to leverage social engineering effectively. Employees are more likely to comply with requests or share information when it appears to come from a prominent individual within the company, creating a sense of trust and authority that leads to fewer second thoughts or scrutiny.


Pretexting is a form of social engineering where attackers fabricate scenarios or pretexts to engage targeted employees, manipulating them into divulging valuable information or performing actions that would seem unusual in regular circumstances. This tactic hinges on the attacker’s ability to construct a believable setting, narrative, and identity to deceive individuals and organizations into sharing sensitive data, which can then be exploited in subsequent cyber attacks.

The success of pretexting is often tied to the attacker’s prior knowledge about the target, as possessing specific information increases the likelihood of convincing the target to disclose valuable data.

The effectiveness of pretexting relies on two key components: the scenario and the character. The scenario comprises believable situations and events crafted by the social engineer to manipulate the employee and extract information. It is typically supported by factual details gathered through prior research to enhance the credibility of the pretext.

The character represents the role assumed by the attacker within the scenario, whether impersonating a real person or a fictitious identity. By skillfully combining these elements, attackers can persuade their targets to share sensitive information or carry out actions that harm the targeted organization.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo attacks, also known as “something-for-something attacks,” operate on the principle of offering a benefit or service to victims in exchange for specific tasks, information, or access. In this form of baiting, attackers pose as helpful entities, such as technicians, reaching out to employees under the guise of providing IT support. They exploit situations where employees may be seeking assistance with technical issues, persuading them to execute commands that grant the attacker access to their systems.

The success of quid pro quo attacks stems from the tendency of individuals to be more cooperative when offered assistance, even if that assistance is fraudulent. This tactic leverages the principle of reciprocity, as described in Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence, wherein individuals are more inclined to comply with requests if they perceive they will receive something in return.


In conclusion, social engineering tactics like phishing, baiting, whaling, pretexting, and quid pro quo attacks underscore the critical importance of cybersecurity awareness and robust defense measures within organizations. These manipulative techniques prey on human vulnerabilities, exploiting trust, curiosity, and the desire for benefits or assistance.

Effective cybersecurity strategies must encompass comprehensive employee training, strong authentication protocols, regular security audits, and advanced threat detection systems. By understanding and mitigating the risks posed by social engineering, organizations can enhance their resilience against cyber threats and safeguard sensitive data, ensuring the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of their digital assets in an increasingly complex threat landscape.